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Tony Cunningham, Ph.D.

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University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame,INBA05/2007Psychology/Pre-Professional Studies
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame,INMA05/2011Clinical Psychology
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame,INPhD06/2017Clinical Psychology
VA Eastern Kansas Healthcare System, Leavenworth, KS07/2018Clinical Psychology
2010 - 2011
Alumni INC@ND Graduate Tuition Scholarship
First Time Attendee Trainee Travel Award
Department of Psychology’s Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award
Student Travel Award
Abstract Meritorious Award
Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts Founders and Directors 30th Anniversary Research Award
Dissertation Grant Award
The Sister Jean Lenz, O.S.F. Leadership Award
Department of Psychology’s Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award
K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award
Abstract Meritorious Award
Young Investigators Research Forum Scholarship

My primary research focus is understanding the role of sleep and sleep loss in emotion and memory processing, and how knowledge of these systems can be applied to clinical populations and the development of new therapeutic treatments. In choosing to pursue clinical training within cognitive neuroscience labs, my background has prepared me to carve a niche at the intersection between neuroscience and clinical practice. My goal is to understand changes in underlying brain networks responsible for emotional processing following sleep loss, and translate this knowledge into effective clinical interventions. By working towards becoming a licensed clinician, I also plan to take what I see in the sleep clinic, and use that information to generate further hypotheses for basic research.

A majority of my research has focused on the role that healthy sleep plays in the consolidation and retrieval of emotional information and its associated physiological affect. During graduate school, I explored the effects of sleep on psychophysiological reactivity to neutral and emotional memories. As a post-doc, I have pivoted to explore how acute sleep loss through total sleep deprivation affects the ability to perceive emotional stimuli and process memory for emotional content. Initial results indicate that encoding negative and neutral information while sleep deprived impairs all memory, but a period of recovery sleep can restore memory specifically for negative content such that hours later performance is better compared to just a 10-minute delay. Moving forward, I plan to apply this foundational information to clinical cohorts (insomnia, PTSD) by exploring the relationship between psychopathologically disrupted sleep and impaired emotional and cognitive functioning, as well as the association between improved sleep, cognitive, and emotional performance across clinical treatment.

Additionally, as an early response to the COVID-19 pandemic I launched a daily survey study on March 20, 2020 in collaboration with a lab at Boston College to determine the impact of COVID19 and many of the large-scale response measures that have taken affect across the globe on factors related to mental health and well-being, such as sleep, stress, and mood. I hope to not only reveal new information about potential risk and protective factors regarding contracting the disease, but also hope to better understand how pandemic culture impacts us as individuals and a society.

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Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.